Thursday, 19 December 2013

Clinical finishing - was Billy right?

After the fans had gone home from another disappointing result at The City Ground, as I mentioned in my last article, Billy Davies claimed that there wasn't that much wrong, that our problems lay in one area alone; clinical finishing. I didn't agree 100%, so have been looking into this in more detail.

A major branch of Davies' argument was that Forest are creating chances, and if true, then logically it must lead us to the conclusion that the team and tactics are capable of getting the goals to win games. Anyone there against Ipswich will remember us creating these chances, but just how many do Forest create?

If we look at the amount of attempts on goal (see left), for all the teams in the division, we can see that The Garibaldi more than hold their own. Davies' side has been creative enough to have 290 attempts on goal so far this season - the 4th most in the league.

14.5 attempts on goal, on average, is more than enough to find the net - it tends to suggest at first glance that Forest are creative enough, that the system Billy sends onto the pitch is doing it's job - only one side do significantly better in this regard.

Let's not forget Forest's league position at the moment; we are 7th and only a point off the playoffs, so it seems strange that the manager is feeling the need to justify his tactics (which is exactly what Davies was doing post Ipswich - it was a statement; "I am doing my job". If the players can't score when Blly's system has them creating so many chances... perhaps they are to blame) - but there is certainly pressure on the Scot from some quarters.

And critics could certainly argue that just because Forest are creating 14.5 chances a game - it does not necessarily mean they are good chances. What kind of attempts on goal are The Reds making? Are they good chances resultant from a classy Forest side slicing open the opposition, or are they hopeful punts at goal - in my opinion we have seen our fair share of both.

Surely a more fitting way of judging your creative goal-scoring potential is to have a look at how many attempts the team is having on target. Forest have found the target an average of 5.1 times per game, which doesn't sound many until you consider that the best average in The Championship is 5.3 (Derby). The Garibaldi have had an attempt on target 101 times this season; the 4th best amount in total. 34.8% of Forest's attempts on goal have been on target this season - again, this is up there with the best.

Out if interest, I re-played the season so far, awarding a win to the team who had the most attempts on target in that game; a draw if they were equal - the results were interesting (see right). Under this system, Forest are right up there vying for automatic promotion in 3rd place.

In analysing this we have to be careful, but as a starting point it's good evidence that the chances Forest create are decent ones - if we are regularly having more chances on target than our opponents, there cannot be too much wrong.

What it says about the players having these chances is debatable - are they doing well to get the shot on target? Should they be doing enough to beat the keeper? More on this below.

Looking at the other teams is also interesting - look at Reading! Not only do they fail to create (they have the second worst amount of attempts per game in the league) but they also regularly have less attempts on target than their opponents - they are down in 22nd in our fictional On Target League. How then, in reality, are they above Forest, when Forest are so much more creative, and trouble goalkeepers more often? How? Because when they get the chance, Reading score.

We've followed a trail of attempts, and attempts on target - now we get to the goals. We know Forest can create, and when they get the chance they can hit the target - but what percentage of those attempts on target are counting?

Here we have finally unearthed the problem; Forest have, for a promotion-hunting side, a diabolical success rate in scoring, considering the amount of times they are making the keeper work. Only 28.7% of their shots on target go in - meaning that, to score the same amount of goals as promotion-rivals Reading, Forest have needed to hit the target an extra 25 times.

Forest are up near the top statistically in every test I ran - except the one that matters - actually making the net bulge. Is this the clinical finishing problem Billy alluded to? It's all very well hitting the target, but if it's easy for the goalkeeper, he's going to save it.

However, I don't believe it to be that simple; surely there has to be some element of luck involved here - take a closer look at the table, left. Do Millwall really possess the league's most clinical finishers? I think Liam Trotter is a good player, and I've long admired Jermaine Easter's effort... but really..?

I think this is another debatable, unprovable question - either players from Millwall, Derby, Leeds and Reading have suddenly turned into world-class finishers and are picking their spot like Roberto Baggio, while the Forest players are merely lashing it blindly towards goal, or there has been a lot of luck involved here.

I would also point to some of the goalkeeping displays Forest have come up against this season. I remember watching the Watford game end, happy that no other keeper could possibly play as well as Manuel Almunia did against us - but they have. Wayne Henessey pulled off another great performance helping Yeovil beat us. Turnbull, Gerken (see picture below, click to enlarge), Heaton, Gilks - they have all had above average games against The Reds. I would suggest that few teams have come up against so many goalkeepers in top form as Forest.

I set out to explore the comments of Billy Davies, that 90% of Forest's play was working well, and that it was solely down to clinical finishing, with the pre-conceived notion that I disagreed with him. From watching the last dozen or so games I judged (and probably still do) that there was plenty of other areas for improvement - but it's difficult to argue with Davies because if there's one thing these statistics prove it's that he's right in what he's saying; Forest create enough chances - therefore the system is working, as is the team in every area except one; clinical finishing.

More ambiguous is what this all says about those players missing the chances. They are not missing the target - they have hit the target over a hundred times this season - it's just that they have had to do so more times than their rivals. Should they be taking a steadier aim and picking out the top corner, leaving the goalkeeper no chance? Do you think Craig Bryson (8 league goals) at Derby is? No I don't either. I think he's just shambling them towards goal and they happen to go in. I don't think this kind of player, or many of the others playing for the more 'clinical' sides in The Championship, are any more clinical than the likes of Simon Cox or Darius Henderson. I think luck has played a huge role so far this season.

Unlucky or not, there have certainly been times when the players have not helped themselves. Several free-headers against Ipswich did not even threaten the keeper. We have missed penalty after penalty and blown many one-on-ones - the Forest players do need to be more clinical - but hopefully, together with my other articles of Forest's attacking merits, I've added to the debate as to whether our teeth are sharp enough coming forward.
 
Unlucky or wasteful? It's debatable. I think the only thing I've proven here is the one thing I wasn't expecting to; that Billy was right, that Forest are dong enough in everything except scoring. Thanks for reading - comments encouraged, especially if you disagree. COYR!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Forest 0 Ipswich 0

Forest are still searching for that lovin’ feelin’ at The City Ground after failing to score for only the second time this season against Ipswich. It was a disappointing afternoon for a few reasons, but Mick McCarthy’s men were always going to be difficult to beat.

Ipswich included Luke Chambers and David McGoldrick, both of whom have been playing well. “McGoal-drought,” as some Forest fans labelled him, has been scoring regularly; feeding off the hard work of the Ipswich midfield and strike partner Darryl Murphy as Town have tended to play quite direct during the games I’ve seen. Chambers is in the familiar situation of being played out of position at right-back, which is something Forest perhaps should have capitalised on more.

The Reds continued to employ a 4-2-3-1 system, with Nathan Chalobah replacing Gonzalo Jara. The system is probably Billy Davies’ reaction to the problems in defensive midfield; teams were finding too much space in front of Forest’s central defenders, causing havoc – but since deploying an extra man in this area, Davies appears to have solved this issue. The extra man had to come from somewhere though, and Forest have consequently been playing with just one striker (see left, all diagrams on Forest Boffin can be enlarged if clicked).

And Forest struggled once again to keep the ball in their opponent’s half, with Ipswich working very hard to eliminate space and opportunities for Forest to pass the ball forward – they also broke the game up, resulting in a jittery start to the game devoid of any real quality. The Tractor Boys themselves look short on creativity, preferring to gain territory through long balls played up to the strikers, where Murphy would fight for the ball with McGoldrick feeding off of scraps.

Initially Ipswich were not pressing as high up the pitch as other teams have at The City Ground, instead anchoring their midifleders in an attempt to deny space in their half. This allowed Forest a foothold in the game, as the wide-men Abdoun and Mackie stretched out Town, and Forest found room to play good football – especially down the left.

Then Ipswich goalkeeper Dean Gerken sent Cox tumbling in the box. From my seat in The Trent End it looked a clear penalty, and throughout the game I thought the (reasonably poor) referee had got this important decision wrong. Upon viewing the replay I see I was right – but for the wrong reason; it was a cynical dive by the Forest man, who was already falling when he deliberately collided with the keeper. Cox let himself down here, but the referee let Ipswich down by not sending Cox off, who was already on a booking. Regular readers will know that I am this player's number 1 fan; hopefully we'll see less of this in the future as he's good enough to succeed without this kind of thing.

Forest continued to look the better team but Ipswich were an organised defensive unit, and after McCarthy adjusted to press further up the pitch it became more difficult for The Reds to come forward with the ball. The hard work and positional discipline of players like Hyam and Tunnicliffe forced Forest to play longer balls than they wanted – which were bread and butter for the defenders, who only had to contend with Simon Cox.

We again get back to Forest only playing one up front, at home. I'm aware that football is evolving, and with the ball men should be getting up there to join him; indeed our midfield often do get high up the pitch - but they are not strikers and do it piecemeal. It is much better to have men ahead of the ball already, so as to have someone to pass to straight away when you gain possession, in my opinion.

Worse still, in my experience, one up front becomes none up front, because an intelligent, pro-active footballer like Simon Cox, will go hunting for the ball - because he's so outnumbered up front this is bound to be further down the pitch - and again Cox was having to come deeper and deeper for the ball against Ipswich (see left for just one example), reducing our ability to come forward with the ball. It's a good idea away from home, but at The City Ground, with defensively capable teams like Ipswich happy to sit back and occupy their own half?

The Tractor Boys’ tactics required Forest’s midfield to force their way into the game, to make themselves available and move the ball quickly – but it was all too slow, and the Ipswich defensive banks were able to get bodies in the way. Going into the second half Forest were still creating chances, but Ipswich were looking ominously solid and sticking at their task well.

Andy Reid was the sponsors’ Man of the Match. It’s fair to say he was effective in patches and created good chances, but overall he suffered in the same manner as Raddy Majewski did against Reading – and for the same reasons; he became outnumbered and starved of opportunities to make positive passes.

The difference in the second half was that the ball was not getting to the wingers quite as fast – possibly because Ipswich were giving Forest’s defensive 6 less time on the ball – and they proved less able to beat their men and put balls into the box. Mackie was frozen completely out of the game.

Then we come to the enigma that is Djamel Abdoun. This player clearly has a lot of skill on the ball, and with Luke Chambers playing at right back, it should have been ideal for a tricky winger to exploit this rare defensive weakness – we all know Chambers is not suited to this position. Abdoun had an exciting first half, providing multiple dangerous crosses, but capitulated when the going got tough in the second period, showing all the grit and determination of a stick of candy-floss – repeatedly falling over instead of persisting to get past Chambers. The Algerian has frustrated me, because he is clearly good enough for us to expect better.

This is beginning to sound harsh, Forest were rarely threatened. Ipswich have a direct but effective way of attacking which was expertly handled by Hobbs and Lascelles in particular, who were very strong aerially. Lansbury and Chalobah also did a disciplined job in stopping anything coming down the middle of the pitch.

And despite being shackled by Ipswich’s defending, Forest continued to create chances into the second half – chances which they were unlucky not to put away, with Cox in particular being denied by a fantastic save by Gerken. Ipswich did a good job of breaking up Forest’s rhythm, and started coming into the game themselves towards the end as the crowd became more and more frustrated. It is no surprise that McCarthy’s side have now gone 6 games unbeaten away from home; they are difficult to beat.

Billy Davies said after the match that 90% of our play was fine and that it was basically all down to poor finishing. I didn’t see it exactly like that myself – I thought we could have been more efficient and urgent in getting the ball moving positively, and struggled because of how well Ipswich defended space – I thought with more options ahead of the ball, we’d have found it easier, and I thought our attacking players subsequently struggled to get into the game.

However, as Davies points out, we were clearly the better team, looked solid defensively and created enough chances to win, sending a plethora of balls into the Ipswich box which were just not converted.

Shuffling down the stairs leading out of the stadium, I could hear more grumbles than is usual, but there are plenty of positives to consider; The Garibaldi are not quite clicking, they clearly have several gears into which they could go up, and are still lurking ominously just outside the playoffs. It’s all very well for armchair critics like myself to criticise them for not moving the ball efficiently enough, or for only playing one striker, but it's a difficult business and Forest win more often than they lose.

Thanks for reading, thanks (again) to the Ipswich fans on TWTD forum for their welcome, and information (this is probably the most helpful and knowledgeable opposition fan forum I’ve come across in writing these articles), and COYR! Feedback welcome, below and here, on City Ground Faithful.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Stat Attack: The strikers (again).

A recurring bone of contention since Billy Davies returned to Forest has been anxiety over the quality of our strikers; you will often hear fans musing that what Forest need is a 20 goal a season goal-scorer – it is apparent that Davies himself has been attempting to bring such a player in.

Simon Cox in particular has been under pressure concerning the amount of goals he scores at Forest – and at first glance, neither he nor Henderson (Forest’s only two real options up front) score enough goals – they are on 5 goals each after 19 league games – in comparison, Ross McCormack has netted 15 already for Leeds United.

However, McCormack has been on the pitch for each one of the 1811 minutes of Leeds’ season so far. As far as goals scored are concerned, a fairer reflection is gained when we ask how long does it take, on average, a player to score a goal when they are on the pitch?

Looking at the stats for The Championship’s forwards, McCormack still has the best goal-scoring record – however when we compare the Forest attackers with the rest of the division, it begins to explode the myth that they are below par goal-scorers. In total, 67 forwards have played 500 or more minutes of league football (I have excluded players such as Jamie Mackie, and the likes of Josh King at Blackburn for example, who are often labelled as forwards but have been played in midfield roles) – Simon Cox has scored the 14th most regularly out of 67 – Darius Henderson has done even better, coming in at 11th best.

It is tempting to imagine how lethal Forest would be with an out and out goal-scorer in the team – fans salivate at the thought of Jordan Rhodes or Charlie Austin in the side, but the fact is that, taking into account the time they have spent on the pitch, Henderson has scored just as often as Rhodes, and both he and Cox have scored more often that Austin.

This is not to take anything away from Rhodes or Austin – they are both superior goal-scorers to our two players, however neither add as much to their team's general game-play – this is fine if they are banging in loads more goals to make up for it, but as the stats prove, they are not. Anybody lusting to have such out and out goal-poachers instead of Cox or Henderson, should be very cautious and ask whether, with such luxury players in the side, Forest would be creating the chances in the first place.

We also need to take into account the regularity that a striker gets games. You will often hear professionals claim that players – and strikers in particular – need a run of games to get into their stride. For the first time this season Simon Cox has started more than three games in a row, during this streak he has started scoring goals – coincidence?

A more detailed examination reveals that Forest’s forwards have not been enjoying as many extended runs in their team, as compared with the other players in our league of top strikers. The players in our top 20 (including the Forest pair) have made 265 starts between them; 88.7% of these starts have come as part of an extended run of 4 or more games. In comparison, only 50% of Cox and Henderson’s starts have come as part of this extended run in the team – the other half of their games have come in dribs and drabs.

Looking at when each striker has been scoring their goals, the overwhelming majority of goals have come when they have been in these extended run of games – in fact the only players who have been able to buck the trend have been Henderson, substitute king Adam Le Fondre and Matt Smith (Leeds United).

The disjointed appearances of Cox and Henderson, although not necessarily bad for the team, cannot fail to damage their own personal goal tallies.

But there is yet another mitigation factor to consider; the amount of goals scored by Forest’s midfielders. The Garibaldi have a real goal-threat from deeper in their team, with Henri Lansbury and Andy Reid being especially dangerous from deep areas of the pitch. If Forest’s midfielders are scoring goal after goal, there is consequently less goals to go around the strikers – once a team scores they often adjust their mentality accordingly. When Lansbury knocks in a rocket from 30 yards to get the goal Forest crave, they will automatically take their foot off the gas to take less risks and will create less chances.

Tactical matters make it even more difficult for the strikers to score regularly. Anybody who has watched Forest will know the way they attack tends to spread the chances around the team more than, say, a counter-attacking team or a more direct team would. Forest under Billy Davies are a possession-hording team when playing in their element, they like to set up camp in the opposition half and will begin to do so by keeping possession in wide areas – but since they have often had little width in the midfield the forwards have been asked to get out wide and help keep the ball. Cox in particular is adept at spinning off to either flank and linking up with other players, holding the ball until the second wave of attack arrives – this naturally requires Cox et al to run away from the area of the pitch where they are more likely to score (see diagrams, left, and below. Click to enlarge).

These tactics, as well as the midfielder’s eye for goal, have resulted in a significant goal-threat from those playing behind the strikers – indeed, no team in The Championship have scored more goals from the midfield. Leeds have forwards occupying number 1 and 3 positions in our table of goal-scorers above – their midfielders have managed only 5 goals, compared to the 13 scored by Reid & Co. at Forest.

All this goes towards showing that Forest’s strikers score plenty of goals when you take everything into consideration – but it does not show what else they’re doing for the team. I’ve touched on the way they help build up play by helping keep possession in the opposition’s half, and could write another two lengthy articles showing the technicalities of how Cox and Henderson do this – there isn’t room here. But how effective are they in helping the team overall? Even discounting their goals, what effect do they have on the team?

Cox is one of Forest’s more creative players and it is reflected in his stats. Aside from Raddy Majewski, Forest score significantly more often with him on the pitch than any other player; goals fly in 7 minutes faster with the Irishman on the pitch than the team average (see stats, left). This is doubtless down to his ability to keep the ball in dangerous areas and create for others – he gets more than his fair share of assists too.

Henderson does not have this positive effect on goals scored overall (but nor does he have a negative effect) – the interesting thing with him is that he has such a positive effect of the amount of goals we concede – with him on the pitch this season, Forest have been 18% less likely to let in a goal. The Red's have let in a goal, on average, around every 82 minutes of play – with Henderson on the pitch this amount drops to a goal every 101 minutes. Over a theoretical season (i.e. if Henderson had the same effect while playing every minute of Forest's season), this difference is worth almost ten goals.

This effect on Forest’s defensive capabilities is certainly down to the outlet which Henderson provides. He is strong and fights for the ball – when under pressure, with Henderson on the pitch they can clear their lines and the ball isn’t forced to come straight back because he’s good at holding it up.

These snippets are just a casual glance at how Cox and Henderson have a positive effect without scoring goals - there is more to their game than merely a goal threat. They are team players and do things the likes of Rhodes or Austin don't, players who will always score more regularly, but not that much more regularly as make up for the good work that Cox and Henderson do aside from scoring. Our strikers help the team in other ways, but as I've shown above, their lack of goals has been exaggerated.

In fact, over a theoretical season, if they continued scoring at the same rate, and played the whole of a season – as many of their rivals will – Henderson would score 26 goals and Cox 24 goals (see right). If they were allowed a run in the side, which they have not been allowed so far, this return would be likely to rise even further. “Twenty goal a season” striker? We have two in the side already.

I realise the theoretical season statistic isn't exactly an exact, scientific perfection, however it does go some way to highlight how regularly they are actually scoring.

The fact is, both Simon Cox, and Darius Henderson, are scoring plenty of goals - and would score even more if given a run in the side, and even more still if Forest's tactics let them off the leash - that's not a dig at Billy's system (I like how Forest try to play), merely an observation of how it effects the goal-tallies of these two players in particular.

I would suggest Forest could do with bringing someone else in – but only as cover and competition for Henderson and Cox. In my opinion they form a vital part of a side which is already scoring enough goals to get promotion – they deserve more credit than they get, and given the chance, are good enough to fire Forest into The Premier League.

Agree or disagree? You can comment below, or at City Ground Faithful forum, here. Thanks for reading, come on Coxy & Hendo; continue to prove me right, and COYR!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Report: Forest 2 Reading 3

Forest continued their disappointing home form on Friday night, making it only one win in six games as they lost 3-2 to a sassy Reading side. It was another entertaining evening with plenty of fluctuating emotions, but as good an advert for The Championship as it was, it’s another damaging home defeat.

Forest only made one change from their dominant game against Burnley with Dan Harding replacing the injured Chris Cohen. Retaining the 4-2-3-1 system, Billy Davies planned on his two ball-playing defensive midfielders passing the ball out to a front four of Raddy Majewski, Jamie Mackie, Jamie Paterson and Simon Cox (see right, all diagrams on Forest Boffin can be enlarged if clicked), building possession as they did against The Clarets, but it didn’t pan out like that as Reading’s tactics initially triumphed in every aspect of play.
 
The Reds’ main problem was in possession, with Reading playing an energetic pressing game, harrying the ball. Forest are a possession team, particularly at home where they average 56%, preferring to play their way forward rather than going direct – but this is exactly what The Royals forced them to do as they gave Forest no time on the ball. This led to the catastrophic failure in Forest’s tactics in the first half; the poor performance of Raddy Majewski.
 
I champion this player more than anybody – in my opinion, many Forest fans under-appreciate him because they don’t notice the low impact, but nevertheless essential, role he plays. Reading totally neutralised Majewski, they targeted this position as the fulcrum of The Reds’ ability to come forward with the ball, firstly by pressing as deep as they did, limiting the quality, and quantity of balls being played into this area, secondly crowding and bullying the little Pole, and thirdly by eliminating options to pass to through man-marking. Majewski failed to find space and proved too lightweight, unable to swashbuckle his way through this challenge – often the man helping us keep the ball as it comes forward, his ineffectiveness limited our possession.

In mitigation, conditions were very difficult for Raddy. Passes to this area were rushed and inaccurate because of Reading’s pressing game. Also, the three midfielders were too far apart – Paterson and Mackie were not coming closer to Majewski to make it easier; along with Forest only having one man up front, this freed an extra man to help mark him – he was often outnumbered.
 
I feel that, considering the kind of player he is, feeding off of scraps, outnumbered and with little support, Majewski was never going to succeed under these conditions. This game highlighted very profoundly both the limitations of this player, and the importance of being able to keep the ball when attacking.

So The Garibaldi couldn’t keep the ball – but what happened when they didn’t have it? Nigel Adkins is very interesting in that he always (when his teams play Forest, anyway) has his players use every inch of width on the pitch – Reading were up to this again, stretching out Forest. This seemed to confuse some of the Forest players positionally, and caused some worry for me in The Trent End – from my position I could see huge distances appearing between members of the back four, which is obviously a big no-no. At one stage the centre-backs had the entire penalty box in-between them. Considering the positional uncertainty, Forest’s defenders did remarkably well to only concede two goals in the first half.
 
But this did come into play in the goals, particularly the first. Even when taking a corner, Reading were stretching Forest out – notice how when they take the corner short, only Raddy Majewski goes out to meet them; normally this is a two man job, but Reading have positioned men over a very wide area, causing indecision amongst Forest’s defenders whether to leave men unattended or stay. Raddy is the only spare man.
 
Reading isolate Gonzalo Jara on the opposite wing seconds later (see above, click to enlarge) – Forest are so stretched that when the ball comes out here Jara has absolutely no support; this is exactly what Reading wanted, and McCleary manages to beat the unsupported Chilean, skipping into the box and crossing for the goal. It is also significant that the player nearest to McCleary when he makes the cross is Raddy Majewski – from defending on one wing, he has had to follow the ball all the way to the other wing to try and stop the opposite winger (see right). This may be a sign that the positioning of Reading’s attackers is causing indecision amongst Forest’s defence.

By the time Forest managed to string together a few attacks they were already 2-0 down, but after 40 minutes The Reds did manage to pull a goal back out of nothing – some good pressing by Majewski and a spritely run by Mackie was probably their only real success of the first half, Cox was on hand to knock in Mackie's cross and Forest were unbelievably back in the game.

At half time Billy brought off Majewski, and the similarly ineffective Jamie Paterson, who aside from an exciting run at the Reading defence, had done little. On came the experience of Andy Reid, and strength of Darius Henderson in an attempt to be better able to keep the ball in Reading's half. If Davies had allowed himself to be outmanoeuvred tactically by Adkins initially, he reversed it for the second period, as his changes proved effective immediately.
 
Forest went two up front, which gave them not only an extra man to battle for the direct balls, but also the correct personnel to do so. More of a presence up front, Henderson and Cox found success straight away in linking up and winning possession high up the pitch. This also effected the mentality of the Reading players – the knowledge that Forest were more able to fight for the ball in their half made them more reluctant to press as high themselves, therefore they put less pressure on the Forest defenders when on the ball, therefore Forest had more time to pass it out from the back, rather than hoofing it when under pressure.

The presence of Reid was helping the forwards as well, and the trio linked up superbly for Forest’s equaliser. The goal is exactly what Simon Cox is all about – he’s great at keeping the ball in nasty areas, holding it until a team-mate can run into an even better position, then playing them in, this is exactly what happened as twinkle-toes Henderson danced his way into the Reading penalty area, slotting the ball home for a deserved goal.

Forest’s strikers have taken a lot of stick in the past year; I have maintained that they are good enough, and they are beginning to repay that faith by scoring more regularly. To be fair to Cox and Henderson in particular – their goal-scoring record isn’t particularly poor this season. When you take into account how long they are on the pitch, they compare well with the majority of The Championship’s forwards (see right). Henderson’s goal made him the 10th ‘most lethal’ striker in the league; Cox’s moved him up to 13th spot. Both have scored more regularly, in terms of how long it has taken them to score, than our hypothetical panacea Charlie Austin, at QPR.

But back at The City Ground Forest had Reading on the ropes. Credit has to go to Billy Davies for the turnaround, and the manager’s alterations gave them the chance to win the game. Jamie Mackie in particular missed two glorious opportunities, once striking the post when clean through, and also beating the keeper but seeing his shot blocked by a defender.

This game was an emotional roller-coaster, and just as you thought Forest were going to complete the job it all fell apart in the 74th minute. Jordan Obita found space in the Forest box, his deflected shot finding the net and undoing all the good work.
 
The final twenty minutes saw Reading give an exhibition of professionalism, with Forest continuing to press while held at arms length. They fouled when they had to (we saw Chris Gunter return to The City Ground with a red card, stopping Cox from running clear into the penalty area), fell over when they had to, and wasted a lot of time – all things we Trickie Trees have seen Billy Davies bring to Forest when seeing out a game – The Royals did a good job.

There are plenty of positives to be taken from this game. When on top, Forest looked far more dangerous than Reading – they should, playing at home, however in my opinion we’re not seeing the same level of cogent, efficient passing from our opponents as we see from Forest when they are in full flow. Our strikers are playing well, and again proved how effective they can be at this level. Our manager once again showed he has an eye for reversing tactical problems.

You would have to say Forest were unfortunate to lose. Their injury depleted team, after making a shrewd tactical adjustment, bossed a good Reading side, and the one-win-in-six home record does not tell the full story. When at full strength Forest will be a real force this season.

Thanks for reading, thanks to the BBC for the quick stats, you can comment below, or on City Ground Faithful forum, here, and COYR!